History of UPRECO
The Sheppard and Lapsley Presbyterian University (UPRECO), named so in recognition of the two first American Presbyterian Missionaries who evangelized the Congo in 1891, is the only graduate school for ministers and lawyers for the Presbyterian Churches in Central Africa.
UPRECO traces its roots to the gradual development of theological education in the Congo begun by the American Presbyterian Congo Misson (A.P.C.M.) and continued by the Presbyterian Church of Congo after the Congo won independence from Belgium in 1960.
The first organized effort to train Congolese for ministry was the Ecole Evangélique (Bible School) created in 1897. The training of pastors and evangelists was formalized in the founding of Bible Schools in Luebo (1913), Ibanche, Mutoto (1918) and Bulape. The Christian education at these schools consisted of biblical training, catechism and methods to prepare church members for a profound Christian lifestyle. In the 1950's, two-year Evangelistic Schools were established, where students with six years of primary school were trained for village ministry.
The Bible School in Mutoto was moved to the new mission station at Kankinda in 1950, followed by the École de Moniteurs (Teachers’ School) in 1951. In 1956 a new École de Théologie (Presbyterian Theological School) was created within the Morrison Institute to provide four years of theological and pastoral formation to selected graduates of the Teachers’ School or Bible School. The first graduating class completed their studies at Kankinda in 1960. At that time Presbyterians in Congo and Rwanda joined forces with the Disciples of Christ to establish the École Unie de Théologie (United School of Theology) near the urban center of Kananga. Despite the serious logistical difficulties and civil unrest that followed Independence, the united school opened on the new campus at Ndesha in 1961 where it functioned under joint ownership and shared leadership until transportation problems dictated that students from outside the Kasai continue their education closer to home.
The Bible School in Luebo (1913) was later transferred to different places and underwent a number of name changes. In 1962 it became the École de Prédicateurs (Presbyterian School for Preachers). In 1976 the level of the school was upgraded when it moved to the Ndesha campus and became the Institut Supérieur de Théologie (IST). Then in 1987, with the addition of the last two years of university instruction, the school became a full-fledged school of theology known as FRTK, the Faculté de Theologie Réformée du Kasaï (Reformed Theological Faculty of Kasai). FRTK is located five miles from Kananga in the province of West Kasai.
The addition of a Law School progressively from 1996 to 2001 led to the creation of the Université PREsbytérienne Sheppard et Lapsley du COngo (U. PRE. CO. or UPRECO). The University offers two degree programs: A graduate program for 3 years and a licensing program for 5 years in each of the two disciplines: Theology and Law. The University Council of Congo accredits all of these programs.
The name for the school was chosen to honor the first two missionaries of the Presbyterian Church (US) to the Congo, William Sheppard and Samuel Lapsley. While both of these men were ordained ministers in the Presbyterian Church, Sheppard is gratefully remembered in the Congo for his signal contributions to the end of King Leopold II's brutal rule of the Congo and its terrible abuses of the Congolese, especially due to the rubber trade. For this reason Sheppard is memorialized by the establishment of the Law School which seeks to promote his model of selfless devotion to the poor and weak. Lapsley, who died too young to leave a lasting monument in the Congo, is remembered as one of those who gave his life to bring the Gospel to the Congo and is honored by naming of the School of Theology after him.